Since December, I have tried four different kinds of butterbeer: boozy, hot, frozen, and non-frozen. Two were at Alamo Drafthouse (the most awesome movie theater ever…truth) in San Antonio and the other two were at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure in Florida. (I blogged about the latter!) One of them came the closest to what J.K. Rowling conjured up in my imagination, and that was the hot version at the Drafthouse. However, the two kinds at Universal were supposedly sampled and approved by the author herself. Even though they weren’t what I had imagined, I really enjoyed them. (Friends and the surroundings definitely helped!)
I’ve been wanting to try to create my own interpretation of butterbeer for quite some time, but since that’s hot and it’s summer, I thought I’d attempt the frozen Universal creation for now. Besides, with Part 2 of Deathly Hallows coming out this weekend (eeeeeeee!), it’s the perfect time, right?
Alright, then. It was pretty clear to me what made up both the frozen and non-frozen versions: cream soda, heavy cream, and butterscotch. This sounded a little too easy to be true, but that’s just it: Universal is a big theme park that gets tons and tons of guests everyday. The Harry Potter section is definitely the most popular part of the Islands, and what’s likely to be the #1 item on most HP fan’s agenda upon visiting the park? Try the butterbeer! This was evident by the lines and number of butterbeers we saw.
If you’re a theme park, you’re going to want to have a super easy recipe that you can keep cranking out to keep up with this demand, and one that is also cheap so that you can make a big profit. This is why I knew simplicity was key and also why I nixed the idea of making butterscotch from scratch. I have a hard time imagining that they bother with that, but who knows. (I’m really not trying to sound cynical, just am using some good old logic!)
If you recall, the frozen butterbeer was in the same kind of machines that are often used to make and dispense frozen beverages like margaritas. My theory is that they just pour cream soda in there, which becomes slushy-like. (I became certain that it was cream soda upon trying the non-frozen version.) Next to this spigot was another that dispensed the foamy topping which to me tasted like loosely whipped butterscotch-flavored whipped cream. Very delicious and super simple.
Now then, how does one recreate this at home? Here is how I did it!
(my own take on Universal’s secret recipe!)
I looked on Universal’s website to try to figure out what brand of cream soda they use. Since they use Coca-Cola products, Barq’s would be my guess, but it looks like their cream soda is red unless they still make the regular kind? Either way, that’s just being unnecessarily nitpicky as this is all just a theory anyway. I used what I could find here in New York which was a brand I’d never heard of and it was fine!
UPDATE: If you want to booze this up a little bit (hey, a lot of us HP fans are 21+!), add some butterscotch schnapps to the cream soda. My roommates and I have tried this, and it’s deeelightful.
1 liter cream soda
1 cup heavy cream
butterscotch sauce to taste (I’m guessing I used ~1/3 cup)
Pour the soda into a large shallow dish (I used a 9×13 plastic container). Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and if the soda has started to freeze around the edges, break up and rake the frozen bits to the center with a fork. Put the container back in the freezer for another 30 minutes. Keep repeating this process (it’s just like making a granita!) until the soda is very slushy. You’ll want to be able to drink it through a straw. This took about 3 hours starting with room temperature soda, but could take less if your soda is chilled and if you have a colder freezer.
When the soda is almost ready, make the topping. Beat the heavy cream until it is lightened, but still loose. (Think beer foam instead of whipped cream.) Whisk in enough butterscotch to give the cream a definite butterscotch flavor. I’m staying at a dorm right now and didn’t bring measuring spoons with me, but am going to guess that I used about 1/3 cup. You can see here how much is missing from the 12.25 oz jar! But really, go by your own personal taste.
To serve, spoon or pour the slushy soda into clear cups or glasses. Spoon the foamy topping on top. You can drink it with or without a straw! (the latter will give you a nice ‘stache)
Another way to make this could be to freeze the cream soda in ice cube trays, then toss the cubes in a blender. (If you try this, let me know.) Of course, an even easier alternative would be to make the non-frozen version by (do I need to say this?) not freezing the soda.
See? Easy peasy and I think it tastes like what I remember! It does look a little different in the photos due to lighting and I think the difference of freezing methods. Unless prices have changed since January, they charge $4.25 a pop for the frozen butterbeer ($3.25 for non-frozen), that is, if you don’t get it in the souvenir mug. I spent less on the total ingredients which definitely make at least a few servings! See? If this really is all there is to it, they’re making a killing.
All of that said, I’d still buy it at HP World because when in Hogsmeade… :)
EDIT: Huffington Post just published an interesting article today about the butterbeer at Universal Orlando. It sounds like there is more to it than my interpretation, but it tastes pretty comparable to me!